I can’t believe the lack of creativity shown by creative companies with respect to their recruiting. Most firms place ads, post openings on job boards, and hire headhunter/recruiting firms. Some firms pay recruitment bonuses to their employees who make referrals that end up getting hired and think they are being innovative. Sorry. None of these tactics are very creative if you ask me!When it comes to hiring good people, the first thing you have to know is they are probably NOT actively looking for a new job. Odds are the best people are simply working away in their jobs and being fairly well-recognized by their employers for their accomplishments. You will have to lure them away. Most people in our business don’t “get” this idea. They think everyone is looking to work there and should be selling them on why they should be hired. This orientation is disastrous! Everything will go wrong when your people think like this.Assuming you can get most of your hiring managers out of this completely dysfunctional mindset, you may then be able to get them to think more about selling people on coming to work there. That implies you have to know what makes your company a special place to work. If you cannot answer this quickly and powerfully, you won’t be able to sell any good person on joining your company. I find that telling a story about projects, growth opportunities, and ownership opportunities in some combination is the best kind of story to tell if you want to sell good people on working there. They have to see where they can go in the company, and that has to meet or exceed their personal expectations. Ignoring this critical aspect of recruiting will bite you every time. You’ll find someone you really want but not be able to “close the deal” with them.So now that you’ve gotten past the idea that all the good people are not looking for a job and need to be sold on why yours is a better place to work than where they are now, it’s time to think about HOW to find these great people. You have to dig!Your current employees— particularly those who worked with your best competitors— are a good source. But why do you have to pay for them to send their friends to your firm? They should want to do it on their own. Recruitment bonuses have always bugged me. What if you don’t hire the person referred by your employee? You may demotivate them. They could think you didn’t do it because you didn’t want to pay the bonus— terrible!!Once you get a referral, pick up the phone and call the person. Calling at home is easier on the employee and more respectful to their employer. Compliment the person. Tell them something nice you heard about them. Then ask if they would be willing to sit down over lunch or breakfast or have coffee with you to talk about opportunities in your firm. Don’t send an e-mail and don’t get your assistant to make that call. You make it!Another good place to look is online. But skip the job boards and instead do a Google search for the kind of person you are looking for. See who pops up. You’ll find authors of articles, people who have spoken at conferences, experts listed on competitors’ web sites, and more. Build a list. Send out a compelling e-mail to those on the list if you cannot find a phone number to call them on directly. The bigger the list the greater your odds of success. And remember this. Anyone who says “no” and that they aren’t interested is a possible source of referrals. Ask them if they know anyone you should be talking to about your job. You may be surprised at the prospects you’ll get. People you meet anywhere can be potential hires or referral sources as well. When you go to a party and meet a friend’s husband who works in a field that is employed by your firm, talk to that person. Find out if he is someone you may have an interest in hiring. If so, learn more. Ditto for store clerks, people you meet at professional meetings, or anywhere for that matter. I really think if I had a company with 20 or more openings today I would consider radio advertising. Radio ads are getting cheaper all of the time. With enough repetition you may catch someone’s interest. When you consider what recruitment ads in newspapers cost, radio ads may be by far more cost-effective.Really aggressive, coordinated college recruitment is another approach that can yield long-term results. Pick the best schools. Involve the alumni from those schools in your program. Co-op programs, internships, recruitment fairs, and alumni recruiting should all be elements of your program. It has to be consistent and follow good times and bad. My last suggestion would be to have in-house recruitment meetings somewhat similar to marketing meetings. Talk about your openings, any potential candidates, tactics that are working to find and hire candidates, and more. These meetings may stimulate some creative thinking about how to be more effective in your recruiting.Originally published 1/19/2009
About Zweig Group
Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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